Sunday, December 28, 2008

Favorite Albums of 2008

Well 2008 is just about over and there was a lot of great music that was released this year. I only wish that I had more time (and money ha) to give more releases a listen but these are my favorite albums that were released this year out of the stuff I've heard.

17. Times New Viking - Rip It Off/Stay Awake EP

This trio plays loud. Really loud. Whenever this comes on in shuffle I immediately have to turn the volume down a bit. That isn't to say that they play a heavy type of music, more like an abrasive pop. The melodies are buried underneath the overly-distorted guitar, cymbal-splashing drums, and rad keyboard/organ riffs. Girl/boy shouting vocals also attribute to the catchy noiseyness that their sound retains. Rip It Off also contains one of my favorite lyrics of the year: "I need more money because I need more drugs"

16. White Denim - Exposion

One of my new favorite bands from Austin, TX, this threesome has the heart of pure "I don't give a fuck" rock and roll. Their songs are soulful and majestically crafted with intricate guitar melodies interweaving along punchy bass lines and intense rhythmical drumming. The mix is also crisp and clear allowing for each instrument to skillfully shine. Bonus points for using Top Spin to distribute their album.

15. M83 - Saturdays = Youth

I have a soft spot for the cheesiness of the 80's. French group M83, known for their electronic-heavy synth-layered epic compositions, try to focus on taking us back to those days (we'll I was born in 89' so I don't remember shit) and they succeed more than ever. "Kim and Jessie" is one of the best songs of 2008 and I imagine if it was released in the time period that was intended, people would have gone nuts.

14. Ratatat - LP3

On Ratatat's third album they decide to hold off a bit on making dance party anthems and try to reinvent themselves. The elements of Ratatat are still here, crunchy electric guitar riffs, lush synth pads, melodies that jump in and out, but they add a bit of new ideas, particularly some influence from world/tribal music. The result is a soundtrack to companion you on your journey through the futuristic sonic landscapes of the Western world. You can tell Ratatat spent a lot more time with production on this album than previous efforts and it definitely pays off.

13. Beach House - Devotion

Devotion follows the same enchanting, dream pop of their debut but feels much more focused and confident in its sound. The beauty lies in the simplicity of the duo's music. A combination of just organ and guitar smothered with reverb. Victoria Legrand's deep vocals emote like a blissful lullaby. This album provides a fuzzy warmth during those cold, winter nights.

12. Deerhoof - Offend Maggie

In the past couple of years, Deerhoof have been consistently shaping the experimental, raw sound from their early records into more accessible pop songs. With this came a more produced sound. On Offend Maggie the band shoots back to their roots with a more rough, low-key production while still retaining an optimal level of catchyness. The result is a jovial, ecletic mix of straight up hard rock and experimentation that aims to please both old and new fans. You really have to see this band live though to fully appreciate them.

11. King Tuff - Was Dead

1970's power-pop rock and roll. Sounds best when cruising down the highway at fast speeds.

10. Air France - No Way Down EP

I'm a big fan of The Avalanches - Since I Left You and since they haven't released another album since then I've been looking for something to come along and replace it. This Swedish group came out of nowhere with this album and it is spectacular. Sample-fused and hypnotically tropical sounding, No Way Down is infectiously playful in sound. It reminds me the thrill of being a child again.

9. Frightened Rabbit - Midnight Organ Fight

Frightened Rabbit is primarily the focus of songwriter Scott Hutchinson. His lyrics are sad but self-deprecating, adding a sense of humor to his pain. While the music is dark at times, it mostly wants to feel uplifted. Midnight Organ Fight showcases a disoriented sense of pop music soaked in a raw, emotional intensity that puts those so-called "emo" bands of today to shame.

8. Fleet Foxes - S/T & Sun Giant EP

What more really needs to be said about these guys? They're a group of talented musicians whom 4 of the 5 carry excellent voices. Both their debut and EP have top-notch pop songwriting laced with nature-inspired folk. Well worth the hype and quite the jokesters live.

7. Okkervil River - The Stand Ins

A sequel to last year's The Stage Names, The Stand Ins continues to prove that Will Sheff is one of the best songwriters out there right now. The way he spits out words seamlessly along each chord change as if he's going to run out of space. Not enough artists can pull it off like he does and nonetheless do it to great folk-rock with enough hooks to have the melody be stuck in your head for days.

6. Delta Spirit - Ode To Sunshine

The word passionate best sums up this album. Sure, it's one of the best straight up pop-rock and roll albums to come out in a while but the amount of energy and soul they put into it is what really makes the music shine.

5. Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago

Recorded in an old log cabin out in the woods, For Emma, Forever Ago captures the feeling of isolation and devastation from the outside world. It's a record that is therapeutic in its lonely beauty. Frontman Justin Vernon needs to be rehabilitated and the only way is through singing these songs so he can let go of his past and move on. The swirl of ambiance from his backing band flesh out his fragile guitar and lovely falsetto voice that artist Lykke Li put it best, "kills me."

4. The Dutchess & The Duke - She's The Dutchess, He's The Duke

From the first moment I heard "Resevoir Park" I knew this would be a very special album. A resurrection of 1960's lo-fi American folk, The Dutchess and The Duke are Kimberly Morrison and Jesse Lortz. Broke and beaten from past bands they've been in that just didn't work out, the two come together to form a record that's brutally honest, painting both the ugly and beautiful sides of life.

3. Department of Eagles - In Ear Park

This album completely took me in with it's interesting instrumentation and haunting cathartic beauty. Obviously, Daniel Rosen carries a bit of Grizzly Bear's sound in this album yet In Ear Park feels far more personal and overall focused than any of GB's previous efforts. An album that takes a bit of patience but ultimately pays off.

2. Thomas Function - Celebration

I've already written about how much I love these guys and their album. If there's any band/album I encourage you to seek out then it is this one. To reiterate: Celebration combines the perfect mix of raw garage punk and catchy pop melodies. Their sound is all about having a good time. Singer/Guitarist Joshua Macero carries a voice that would lend itself greatly to drunken sing-alongs. Keyboardist Zack Jeffries provides soulful organ touches that blend in well with Travis Thompson's driving basslines. Their sound of course wouldn't be complete without music's finest instruments, the tambourine and shaker. They're the band that you wish were always playing the house party you're attending. There's no big message, simply to just have fun. Life is short.

1. The Dodos - Visiter

Upon first listens of this album I really didn't think too much of it. Everything sounded fine but it didn't leave any impression on me. Well during the summer I left it in my car for about two months and grew to enjoy every aspect of this album. The non-traditional drumming, the frantic acoustic guitar strumming, singer Meric Long's impulsive shouts. The little bits of instrumentation that come in for just a little bit to tease you. It's all grand, perfectly put together songs that work so well in an album context. Long's lyrics are also quite effective in the way they say a lot in such a simple way. Many artists try to doll up their lyrics in order to sound sophisticated, poetic, un-cliche but too often the result comes across as pretentious and uninspired. Long reassures us that less is most definitely more.

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